Red Sox vs Rays Picks and Predictions: Road Dogs Have Edge with First Place on the Line

The Rays can move into first place in the AL East with a win over Boston on Saturday. A big pitching mismatch favors the road underdog BoSox, though, as red-hot Nathan Eovaldi and Ryan Yarbrough (who has been shelled by Boston this year) get the starts.

Posted: Jul 31, 2021 2:44 PM ET Updated: Jul 31, 2021 2:44 PM ET Est Time: 4 min
Xander Bogaerts Boston Red Sox MLB
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will resume their three-game set at Tropicana Field on Saturday with first place in the AL East up for grabs.

Tampa swatted three homers in the series opener to move within 0.5 games of the East-leading Red Sox, and another win tonight would see them pull ahead into the top spot. But it won't be an easy assignment against fireballer Nathan Eovaldi, whose BoSox opened as a slight -115 favorite before the line shifted and turned them into an intriguing plus-money play. 

Find out who we like in our free MLB betting picks and predictions for Red Sox vs. Rays on July 31.

Red Sox vs Rays game info

Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
Date: Saturday, July-31, 2021
Time: 6:10 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Sun, NESN

Red Sox vs Rays odds

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Starting pitchers

Nathan Eovaldi (9-5, 3.49 ERA): Eovaldi has been the top arm in a shaky Red Sox rotation, leading all starters in ERA, WHIP, innings, and WAR. In fact, his 4.0 WAR, per FanGraphs, is better than all but two qualified starters in baseball. The big righty is coming off back-to-back gems against the Yankees in which he struck out 15 and walked one over a combined 12 2-3 innings. 

Ryan Yarbrough (6-4, 4.38 ERA): The soft-tossing lefty has pitched well for the Rays this month, with one bad outing against the Orioles shooting his ERA for July up to 3.97. Still, that's better than his season-long mark and he allowed two runs or fewer in each of his other three starts. 

Weather

Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.

Key injuries

Red Sox: Rafael Devers 3B (Probable), Danny Santana OF (Out), Christian Arroyo 3B (Out), Marwin Gonzalez 3B (Out).
Rays: Pete Fairbanks RP (Out), Collin McHugh RP (Out), Ryan Thompson RP (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Over is 6-1 in the last seven meetings at Tropicana Field. Find more MLB betting trends for Red Sox vs. Rays.

Moneyline pick

While the Yankees and Blue Jays made splashier moves at the deadline (though Tampa did jump ahead of things early and grab Nelson Cruz a week before the real trade frenzy), it's the Red Sox and Rays who have comfortable leads atop the powerhouse division. 

New York sits in third, seven games behind the second-place Rays, who have a 3.5-game lead over the A's for the first wild-card spot. The Rays are 9-5 since the All-Star break and followed up their 14-0 pounding over the Yankees with seven runs against Boston last night. But don't expect to see a similar offensive performance tonight. 

Eovaldi has enjoyed a strong season and July has been his best month from a run-prevention standpoint, as he has a 2.84 ERA across his four starts. He misses bats at a league-average rate and has stepped up in that department lately and doesn't issue free passes or get hurt by the long ball, leading to a 2.48 FIP that's the third-best mark in MLB. 

Two of those things will work in his favor tonight and make Boston a strong play as an underdog. The Trop is a great pitching environment where balls don't fly out, and the Rays are striking out at the second-highest rate in baseball. This is a great matchup for Eovaldi, who has fanned six-plus in five straight outings.

Toss in the fact that Boston has pounded Yarbrough twice already this season and we'll happily side with the BoSox at plus money.

PREDICTION: Boston (+105)

Over/Under pick

While we expect Eovaldi to have a good game and pitch strong enough to help Boston come away with the win, expecting him and the arms that follow to completely shut down this lineup would be asking a lot. 

The Rays are eighth in baseball post-ASG in OPS, fifth in slugging, and tied for second in homers. If they can't get much off Eovaldi, they will make up for that against a Boston bullpen that has a 4.58 ERA over the last month. And all we really need here is for them to cash a few runs to get us Over the 8.5 total. 

That's because Yarbrough is in for a tough day. He allowed nine runs to the Red Sox back in April and then another five over two innings of work in June. He doesn't miss a lot of bats and he gives up a lot of contact, a recipe that is sure to hurt him against the hard-hitting Red Sox who are fourth in the majors in batting average and third in OPS. 

Boston has struggled against lefties lately, but we don't see Yarbrough containing a group of lefty-killing right-handed hitters that includes Xander Bogaerts, Hunter Renfroe, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers, who missed the last two games but is expected to play Saturday. All four have an .800-plus OPS versus southpaws this season.

While the Rays bullpen has been great, they are hammered by injuries, will likely assume a larger workload tonight, and dealt away a key piece in Diego Castillo (though they did get back a solid option in J.T. Chargois). 

Though Eovaldi and Yarbrough have done a good job delivering Unders lately, the Over has cashed in 10 of Yarbrough's 15 starts this season. And the Over is 6-1 in the last seven meetings in Tampa Bay and 20-5-2 in the last 27 head-to-head games overall. Count on another today.

PREDICTION: Over 8.5 (-105)

Red Sox vs Rays betting card

  • Boston (+105)
  • Over 8.5 (-105)

Picks made on 7/31/2021 at 12:58 p.m. ET

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